A blueprint for future oil and gas sites in Derbyshire leaves the way open to fracking, despite a moratorium on the process.
The new minerals local plan, which will shape developments in much of the county up to 2038, has not outlawed shale gas extraction and does not distinguish between policies for unconventional and conventional oil and gas operations.
A public consultation on the draft begins today and runs until 29 April 2022.
Potential shale gas has been identified in north east Derbyshire.
Proposals by Ineos for an exploration site in the village of Marsh Lane were approved in 2018 after a public inquiry. But planning permission expired in 2021 without any work on the site.
The draft plan said the scale and commercial viability of oil and gas in Derbyshire were “very uncertain”. It said the move away from fossil fuels also put the future importance of oil and gas in doubt.
But it said detailed planning criteria were needed for exploration, appraisal and production:
“it is possible that the oil and gas industry will seek to examine and extract these resources, if commercial viability is proven, and the Plan therefore needs to include policies to enable such development.”
A new proposed policy, SP17, applies to both conventional and unconventional oil and gas. It supports exploration and appraisal projects that:
- Identify the target reservoir and search area
- Include measures to avoid induced seismicity and demonstrate there will be no unacceptable adverse impacts on geology and former mining activities
- Ensure well sites are:
- in the least sensitive location for accessing the reservoir
- operate for an agreed, temporary length of time
- restored at the earliest practical opportunity
Production proposals must also meet these criteria. They will be supported, the plan said, if they have a full appraisal programme and a framework for “full and timely development” of the oil or gas field.
Production developments should also include the use of pipelines or rail, rather than road transport, unless this is impracticable. A financial restoration bond may be required for new techniques of oil and gas extraction.
Seismicity and separation
Hydraulic fracturing in former coalfield areas could worsen subsidence and land instability, the plan said. Under policy SP17, it said applicants would be required to establish the extent of geological faulting and identify past coal seams to reduce the likelihood of induced seismicity from fracking operations.
The plan recognised that low volume hydraulic fracturing with acid could be used to improve the flow of oil and gas in some conventional formations. But it has no specific policies on acid fracking or matrix acidising.
The new policies do not require specific setback distances between homes and well pads, as recently approved in the North Yorkshire minerals plan.
But a new general policy, DM1, which seeks to prevent unacceptable impacts, says separation distances may be applied between mineral sites and other land uses, where appropriate.
Again unlike the North Yorkshire plan, Derbyshire has not proposed a buffer zone around the edge of its national park. The plan said instead that developments in the setting of the Peak District would be expected to be “sensitively located and designed” to avoid or minimise adverse impacts.
The document does not refer to recent support by the government’s advisor, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), for controls on UK oil and gas production and a presumption against future exploration. Neither does it mention the CCC’s three tests on the compatibility of shale gas with UK carbon budgets.
The draft also sets general policies for all mineral developments. These include:
DM1: Protecting local amenity, health and wellbeing and safety
Support for developments where no unacceptable impacts to local amenity, health, well-being and safety from issues such as noise, dust, vibration, emissions, ground contamination, visual intrusion, light pollution or transport
DM2: Assessing the benefits of minerals developments
Gives great weight would be given to the benefits of mineral extraction (except coal)
All proposals should seek to maximise sustainable modes of transport, including rail, barge, conveyor and pipeline.
Proposals would be supported where it can be demonstrated that there will not be significant harm to the character, quality or sensitivity of the landscape, important features, views or qualities such as tranquillity – unless the benefits clearly outweigh the impacts
DM5 Biodiversity and geodiversity
Proposals should seek to protect and enhance nature conservation interest. This includes additional protection for internationally designated sites
DM6 Trees, woodlands and hedgerows
Developments should seek to protect trees, woodlands and hedgerows from loss or damage
DM7 Historic environment
Developments would be supported where it can be demonstrated that they would protect and enhance the significance to heritage assets
DM8 Water management and flood risk
Developments would be supported where it can be demonstrated they would not result in unacceptable impacts on surface and groundwater and flood flows/defences/storage capacity and local land drainage
Other general policies seek to conserve soil (DM9), protest green infrastructure (DM12) and local footpaths (DM13), maintain the openness of the Green Belt (DM11), ensure sites are restored (DM15).
Local meetings on the draft plan
Monday 28 March 2022, 2.30pm to 6.30pm – Buxton Library
Friday 1 April 2022, 2.30pm to 6.30pm – Bolsover Library
Tuesday 5 April 2022, 2.30pm to 6.30pm – Wirksworth Library
Wednesday 6 April, 2.30pm to 6.30pm – Foston And Scropton Village Hall
Tuesday 12 April, 2.30pm to 6.30pm – Shardlow Village Hall